Saturday, April 19, 2008

Duntryleague Passage Tomb, Co. Limerick. Image credit gjrk

The Great Leader

An eye on the hilltop, bristling with trees,
whose dark lashes blink in the shuddering breeze -
a lingering witness of a day long past,
when that petrified carcass first rose from the grass.
It waited for legends to grow in the tomb
and pulse through this salmon-flesh quartz-speckled room,
where I sit dreaming of spines of stones,
of flakes of life once picked from their bones.

Mixed with soil in a corn-coloured powder,
Olill Olum lies, the people's great leader.
"Place me on high, over the valley's soft breath,
where I can see and be seen, even in death."


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Something of his sad freedom

The Tollund Man

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters'
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.


I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,
Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

Seamus Heaney